Cloud's Rest from Happy Isles
20.1 miles     6000 ft
29 Aug 2010

Spectacular hike in Yosemite to awesome 360-degree views.

Location: Yosemite National Park

Elevation Profile

Location: Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite, CA . No street address. Parking area is visible in Google Maps if you zoom in sufficiently.

Directions: Please study Trail Maps for Yosemite. Regular buses take you from Curry Village to Happy Isles trailhead. Alternately, you may walk to the trailhead - it is only about one mile away.

Google Maps:

Parking Fees: See Fees and Reservations at Yosemite. (last visited: August 2010)

Capacity: Hundreds of cars may be parked at Curry Village

Latitude: 37.732652     Longitude: -119.558405

Trip Planning

Trail Maps

» Official Trail Map: Good map showing various hiking trails.


On 29 August 2010, I hiked to Clouds Rest from Happy Isles trail head in Yosemite National Park. At 20-miles round-trip and 6000 ft total elevation gain, it was a challenging day hike. It took me 6 hours to reach the top and 4.5 hours to descend.

Traihead: Happy Isles trailhead, close to Curry Village.

  1. 9.6 miles to Clouds Rest via Mist Trail: From Happy Isles trail head (4,035 ft) → 0.8 miles to Vernal Falls Bridge → 0.7 miles to top of Vernal Falls (5,044 ft) → 1.3 miles to restrooms near Nevada Falls (5,908 ft) → 2.5 miles to fork (2.0 miles to Half Dome on left; 4.3 miles to Clouds Rest on right) → 4.3 miles to Clouds Rest.
  2. 10.5 miles to Happy Isles via John Muir Trail: Follow the above route back until you reach the restrooms near Nevada Falls. Then hike 0.2 miles to Nevada Falls, cross the bridge and continue 3.5 miles along John Muir Trail to reach Happy Isles trailhead.

Notes: There are two routes for reaching the restrooms near Nevada Falls. The shorter (2.8 miles) but steeper route is through Mist Trail, which offers amazing views of Vernal Falls. In spring, soon after rains, water is aplenty, making the stony trial wet and slipper (caution is warranted) and there's always a rainbow. The longer (3.7 miles) route avoids Vernal Falls completely. It has a series of switchbacks and should be preferred for the return journey — gentler gradient is better for your knees.

1. Happy Isles Trailhead

We started from Happy Isles at 7:15am. We parked our car at a parking lot that was about half a mile away from the trail head. We followed an unnamed trail to reach a paved road. The road soon crossed Merced river via a bridge. Immediately after the bridge, we took a right towards Happy Isles trail head. From the trail head, Clouds Rest is 10.5 miles away if you go by John Muir Trail. It is only 9.5 miles away if you go by the shorter but steeper Mist Trail.

2. Vernal Falls Bridge

About 0.8 miles into the hike, we reached Vernal Falls Bridge, which has drinking water and restrooms:

3. Vernal Falls

About 1.5 miles into the hike, we reached Vernal Falls. In late August, the falls were not as spectacular as in April, soon after rains. About half a mile after Vernal Falls, we crossed a bridge.

4. Nevada Falls

About 2.8 miles into the hike, we reached Nevada Falls. The last portion of the hike involves a series of switchbacks with stony steps. There's a restroom at Nevada Falls. A sign reminded us that Clouds Rest was 6.8 miles ahead.

5. Fork to Half Dome

5.3 miles into the hike, we reached a fork. Half Dome is two miles away. Clouds Rest is 4.3 miles away. Many people take rest at this junction:

6. To Cloud's Rest

The remainder of the hike was forested. The forest became greener as we gained elevation.

7. Top of Cloud's Rest

Half Dome is seen quite clearly along John Muir Trail. Views from atop Clouds Rest are spectacular. You can see the entire Yosemite Valley. There's a ridge next to Clouds Rest. It's not really a "knife edge" — it's several feet wide everywhere.

8. Return Trip

Awesome panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and trails next to River Merced on the way back.

© Copyright 2008—2020, Gurmeet Manku.